ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury High School students in a Mass Media class surprised the Roxbury Police Department this week by giving every officer a bag of small gifts, a gesture designed to show the police their efforts are appreciated.

The idea stemmed from an assignment by instructor Deborah Burleigh, who said she asked the students to “combine strategies in advertising, marketing, fundraising and event planning to show their gratitude.” Burleigh said the students felt the need to counter the anti-police rhetoric that seems to be increasing nationwide.

“It didn't take long for the students to agree that the police department should be recognized,” she said. “We talk each day about current events in the news and it's certainly obvious that safety and security are on all of our minds and the people who keep us safe don't often get the recognition they deserve.”

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Burleigh’s students engaged in “a lot of discussion in the class about why they should choose the Roxbury Police Department,” she said. “The students highlighted how much they do for our community. From banning together to help families stricken by cancer to food drives and supporting our schools, they are truly committed to helping in any way they can. They protect and enrich our community, and we are grateful for them. “

Each gift bag contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, shaving cream, a razor, some snacks, water bottles “and some other goodies,” said Burleigh. When the gifts were brought to the police department on Dec. 23, the officers on duty “seemed quite surprised with the generosity of our students,” she said.

On Christmas Eve, Roxbury Police Det. Sgt. Dean Adone sent Burleigh an email thanking her and her students.

“I just wanted to let you know how appreciative the members of this department are for yesterday’s gift bag presentation,” wrote Adone. “I have worked here for almost 17 years and I can honestly say that it was the nicest gesture I can remember.”

Burleigh said she made a point of telling the police, on behalf of her students, “that in a world full of tension, we wanted them to know how much we respect and appreciate their service.” She said she also stressed that many of her students “have felt uneasy with what’s happening in the world and this was the least we could do to thank them.”

Adone said he found it “refreshing to know” that educators like Burleigh are allowing students to “at the very least, give law enforcement officers a fair shake,” something he said seems to happen rarely these days “especially on college campuses.” 

Burleigh said the police will also be receiving gift cards from her students “and maybe something else that we didn’t quite share yet that we are working on.”